GavelFirst Amendment rights, social media, land use issues, and environmental concerns collided in Campolo, Middleton & McCormick’s latest litigation victory, spearheaded by attorneys Frederick Eisenbud and Richard DeMaio.

Our clients, an environmentally conscious couple, clashed with a developer who sought permission to construct a 176-unit condo project adjoining our clients’ property. Concerned about the condo project’s environmental impact, our clients (represented by other counsel) challenged the developer’s approvals by filing two Article 78 petitions (lawsuits to challenge the approvals), which ultimately were dismissed. They also maintained an active social media presence to keep the public informed about the project. In response, the developer sued them for slander, libel, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and malicious prosecution.

The couple hired an attorney to answer the lawsuit, then retained CMM for a second look. Eisenbud and DeMaio immediately recognized that many of the claims against our clients, while baseless, were also time-barred by the statute of limitations – but the prior attorney hadn’t raised this defense in the answer. CMM also counseled our clients that the developer’s lawsuit was a classic example of Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation – a SLAPP suit – designed to punish our clients for exercising their First Amendment rights and to deter others from opposing the project.

CMM moved for permission to file an amended answer that raised the statute of limitations defense as well as counterclaims against the developer pursuant to New York’s anti-SLAPP statute.  At the same time, we moved to dismiss all claims in the amended complaint against them as legally defective except those for slander which were not time-barred. As to those, we concurrently moved for summary judgment. In January, the Nassau County Supreme Court (Justice Roy S. Mahon) granted all of our motions and dismissed the entire complaint against our clients. Having succeeded in our efforts to get the entire complaint dismissed, the only causes of action remaining in the case are our clients’ counterclaims against the developer for damages for violating the clients’ First Amendment rights.

Learn more about our preeminent Environmental & Land Use practice here.